How The Collage Atlas’ creator drew a pen-and-ink world into life over four years

April 28, 2024
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Few games have left such an immediate impression on me as The Collage Atlas. Here are anchors dropping from a white sky, razor-thin keys opening butterfly locks, and books swarming in the wakes of ships as if they were murmurations of starlings. Brought to life with a hand-drawn pen-and-ink aesthetic, the game’s calm spaces and wealth of illustrative detail work together to encourage self-reflection. Having immersed myself in the game over the last few weeks, I wanted to know more. That’s why I find myself talking to its solo developer, John Evelyn. He’s the man who built this game and literally drew it into life.

It took Evelyn four and a half years to create The Collage Atlas. He tells me it began as a picture book designed to help people through difficult times – a picture book that would have worked alongside a companion app. “I initially assumed that the best way to talk about the things I want to discuss would be through a picture book,” he explains. But the medium was always secondary to the message he wished to convey.

“I wanted to explore the idea that when life becomes particularly challenging – perhaps we go through traumatic events or things completely out of our hands. We start to feel that our sense of agency is somewhat undermined.” Evelyn pauses here. “That we don’t have meaningful authorship over our own lives. That’s something that I and many other people have experienced.”

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